NRL: Mateo looking to recapture his mojo

By Michael Brown

The playing future of Feleti Mateo should be known in the next 24 hours with the second-rower about to re-sign with the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images.
The playing future of Feleti Mateo should be known in the next 24 hours with the second-rower about to re-sign with the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images.

There are few players at the Warriors who polarise opinion as much as Feleti Mateo and the announcement the second-rower will remain at the club for another three years will court varying views.

The 29-year-old has resisted approaches by rival clubs including the Dragons to pen a new deal to stay at Mt Smart Stadium until the end of 2016 that could see him play out the remainder of his NRL career in Auckland. He will be 32 by the time his new contract expires and the NRL is increasingly becoming a younger man's game.

He's already shown he's durable, and tomorrow will play his 62nd consecutive game for the Warriors and 150th NRL game overall. He hasn't missed an NRL match for the club since arriving in 2011 and it has been a rollercoaster journey in so many ways.

"All in all, I have loved my time here,'' he said. "We have had highs and lows. It's good being here and experiencing that so I know what's in front of me. We probably couldn't have gone any worse than we did last year and we could have gone only one better than we did the year before.

I'm hoping in my time here we can do what people don't expect us to and win the comp.''

Mateo has come close twice, playing in two grand finals (firstly with the Eels in 2009 and then the Warriors in 2011), and is a player of considerable talent who last year was named in the Kangaroos train-on squad for the end-of-year test with the Kiwis.

He regularly tops the NRL's offloading charts, and has made 18 so far in nine games this season, is the second-highest metre-eater at the club behind Ben Matulino with 804m and has made a club-leading 107 hit-ups. But that is countered by 15 missed tackles and eight errors and he can go missing in matches.

His form this season has so far been patchy, something he's at a loss to explain, and it has not gone unnoticed by pundits and fans.

"I think I'm getting there,'' he said. "Looking back on my career, I probably blossom at the end of seasons. It's something I need to address. I have probably just realised it this year. I have had a slowish start to the year but I'm not sure how I fix it or what I do. The longer the season goes on, the more comfortable I will feel and I think people will see better footy from me.''

It will help getting his future sorted. Mateo and his wife Michelle are expecting their first child in September and the couple were tempted to return to Australia to be closer to family.

"I want to go home, I want to stay here, there's so much to weigh up,'' he said before announcing his decision to stay.

Coach Matt Elliott hopes Mateo can reproduce the sort of form that convinced him to offer the second-rower a new three-year deal.

"Feleti, by his own admission, has not played the sort of footy or been the influence on the team he knows he's capable of,'' Elliott said. ``There have been some distractions over his future... but I'm a Feleti fan and believer.

"My expectations of Feleti are really high. [I know fans have high expectations] but I think that's fair. He should want that expectation and his job is to deliver it.''


Feleti Mateo

Age: 29

Position: Second row

NRL games: 149

Clubs: Eels (2004, 2007-2010), London Broncos (2005), Warriors (2011-)

Rep honours: Tonga (7 tests), City Origin, NRL All Stars, PM's XIII


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